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Forum:Exploration: Asteroids, Moon and Mars
Topic:NASA tests abort test boosters for Orion
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"This milestone brings the Constellation Program one step closer to completion of the Orion vehicle that will carry astronauts to the International Space Station in 2015 and return humans to the moon by 2020," said Mark Geyer, Orion project manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "The launch abort system must be ready to operate in many different environmental conditions, and tests such as this one are critical to assure this safety feature will protect our astronauts."

Thursday's test firing was the culmination of a series of motor and component tests conducted this year in preparation for the next major milestone, a test scheduled for the spring of 2009 with a full-size mock-up of the Orion crew capsule.

The abort motor stands more than 17 feet tall and is three feet in diameter. During Thursday's ground firing, the motor was fixed in a vertical test stand with its four exhaust nozzles pointing skyward at ATK's facility.

On ignition, the abort motor fired for 5.5 seconds. The high impulse motor was developed to expend the majority of its propellant in the first three seconds, delivering the half million pounds of thrust needed to pull the capsule away from its launch vehicle in an emergency abort.

While similar to the Apollo Program's launch abort motor, Orion's abort motor incorporates today's technology into a more robust design. The launch abort motor uses a composite case and an exhaust turn-flow technology instead of a tower, which results in weight savings, improved performance and improved success in crew survival during an abort. Instead of the rocket plume exiting a rear nozzle, the manifold is placed at the forward end of the motor. The rocket thrust enters the manifold and is turned 155 degrees and forced out the four nozzles, creating a forward-pulling force.

To prove this new technology, a series of tests were performed leading up to the full-scale demonstration. Earlier tests included five subscale test firings incorporating reverse flow propulsion; full-scale structural integrity testing on the composite case, igniter bottle and manifold; and surveillance testing during casting to ensure the propellant chemistry met abort motor requirements.

ATK is the subcontractor responsible for the launch abort motor within NASA's Orion Project. Orbital Sciences Corporation in Dulles, Va., is responsible for integrating the launch abort system motor into the vehicle for Lockheed Martin Corporation of Denver, the prime contractor for Orion. The Orion Project Office is located at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and receives management and technical support for the Launch Abort System from NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Robert PearlmanATK release
ATK Successfully Tests Orion Launch Abort System Attitude Control Motor

Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK) performed a ground test of a full-scale attitude control motor (ACM) for the launch abort system (LAS) of NASA's Orion crew exploration vehicle. The test was conducted at ATK's facility in Elkton, Md. on Dec. 15.

"The ACM test is a major accomplishment for the ATK, Lockheed Martin and the NASA LAS team. We demonstrated a critical technology capability that will enhance crew safety and mission success," said Bart Olson, Vice President and General Manager, ATK Tactical Propulsion and Controls. "This successful milestone brings Constellation another step closer to flight ready status and demonstrates progress toward improved flight safety for astronauts that is at the core of Constellation Program success.

Early indications are that the Demonstration Motor 1 (DM-1) test was successful and engineers are now analyzing the detailed results. This was the sixth in a series of ground tests of Orion's attitude control motor system, validating that the thruster system performs as designed.

ATK's attitude control motor provides steering for the Orion launch abort system which is designed to safely lift and steer the Orion crew module away from the Ares crew launch vehicle in the event of an emergency.

ATK's attitude control motor consists of a solid propellant gas generator, with eight proportional valves equally spaced around the circumference of the three-foot diameter motor. In combination, the valves can exert up to 7,000 pounds of steering force to the vehicle in any direction upon command from the crew module. The valves are controlled by a redundant power and control system.

ATK is under contract to Lockheed Martin, NASA's prime contractor for Orion, to develop the attitude control motor and provide motors for Orion's development test flights and human rated flights. ATK is also the prime contractor for Ares I first stage.

Video, photographs and additional information on the ACM program can be found at ATK's website.

Robert PearlmanATK release
ATK Successfully Tests Attitude Control Motor for Orion Launch Abort System

The Next Step in Creating Unmatched Crew Safety for Future Human Space Flight

Alliant Techsystems announced that it successfully completed the second of two ground tests of a full-scale attitude control motor (ACM) for the launch abort system (LAS) of NASA's Orion crew exploration vehicle. The second test was conducted on March 17, and evaluated environment extremes and ignition system robustness in addition to confirming the motor performance. The test was conducted at ATK's facility in Elkton, Maryland, where the first successful test was conducted on December 15, 2009.


Credit: ATK

Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor to NASA for Orion, leads the project team developing the nation's next-generation space flight vehicle to carry out missions to destinations throughout our solar system. Orion's launch abort system is critical to the human rating of any similarly designed spacecraft and is essential for crew safety which is fundamental to successful human space exploration in the future.

This test of the control motor validates the readiness for NASA's upcoming pad abort 1 (PA-1) flight test that will be conducted at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), New Mexico. The PA-1 ACM was delivered to WSMR in February. PA-1 is the first LAS flight test for NASA's Orion crew exploration vehicle.


Credit: ATK

"The success of this test, coupled with the success of the first test last December, demonstrates again that crew safety is an overriding priority in the design of the crew vehicles to be used in future human exploration missions. We are now ready for the next major milestone, a flight demonstration," said Bart Olson, interim President, ATK Mission Systems.

ATK's attitude control motor provides steering for the Orion launch abort system, which is designed to safely lift and steer the Orion crew module away from the launch vehicle in the event of an emergency. This was the seventh in a series of ground tests of Orion's attitude control motor system, validating that the thruster system performs as designed.

ATK's attitude control motor consists of a solid propellant gas generator, with eight proportional valves equally spaced around the circumference of the three-foot diameter motor. In combination, the valves can exert up to 7,000 pounds of steering force to the vehicle in any direction upon command from the crew module. The valves are controlled by a redundant power and control system.

ATK is under contract to Lockheed Martin to develop the attitude control motor and provide motors for Orion's development test flights and human-rated flights. ATK is also responsible for the main launch abort motor, successfully test-fired November 2008, and the Ares I first stage, which was successfully test-fired in September 2009.

About the Orion Launch Abort System:

The Orion launch abort system (LAS) activates within milliseconds in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during initial ascent. The LAS consists of three motors: the abort motor that fires nearly 500,000 pounds of thrust to pull the crew module up and away from the launch vehicle; the attitude control motor that exerts up to 7,000 pounds of steering force to reorient the vehicle's position; and the jettison motor that separates the crew module from the launch abort system so that parachutes can be deployed for a safe landing. The jettison motor is the only motor that will be activated on all nominal missions to separate the spacecraft from the launch abort system assembly shortly after second stage activation. ATK is providing the abort and attitude control motors and Aerojet is providing the jettison motor. All three motors have been integrated into the LAS assembly by a Lockheed Martin-led team at White Sands Missile Range in preparation for the Pad Abort 1 test this spring.

Robert PearlmanAlliant Techsystems (ATK) release
ATK Successfully Tests Orion Launch Abort Motor Igniter

Igniter Integral to NASA's Space Launch System and Orion Crew Safety

NASA and ATK successfully completed a static test of the launch abort motor igniter for the Orion crew capsule's Launch Abort System (LAS). Conducted at ATK's facility in Promontory, Utah, this test is the next step toward qualifying the igniter for production.

The LAS will be placed on top of the Orion spacecraft, the first spacecraft capable of taking humans to multiple destinations in deep space. Orion will launch aboard NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), and its LAS will include an escape rocket on top of the capsule that can carry the crew to safety if any anomalies occur during the launch. SLS and Orion provide an unmatched combination of mass, volume and speed that can deliver humans and cargo to deep space faster, safer and more affordably than any other existing vehicles or proposed options.

"As a former astronaut, I understand how critical the abort motor is to the safety of those flying aboard the Orion spacecraft," said Charlie Precourt, vice president and general manager of ATK's Space Launch division. "ATK is operating at the highest standard to ensure this motor will be ready and reliable, if needed."

For this qualification test, technicians exposed the igniter to vibrations and extreme temperatures to simulate pre-operating and flight conditions before firing it and at its hottest condition. Next year, the igniter will undergo a similar qualification test, but it will be fired at its coldest temperature. Previous tests include a development test that verified igniter performance analytical models prior to a static test of the launch abort motor, and Pad Abort-1, a ground launch test of the entire LAS.

This igniter design enables the abort motor to activate within milliseconds, lifting the crew module to safety with an acceleration over 10gs.

"Our employees have done an outstanding job in advancing the maturity of the launch abort motor by successfully executing several qualification tests this summer, including the manifold ultimate loads test, igniter closure hydro-test and this igniter static fire test," said Precourt. "This is real rocket science, and our employees are committed, intelligent people making our journey to deep space possible."

The next major abort motor milestone will be its Critical Design Review, scheduled for summer 2015.

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